A story of discovery

Pat Thompson was another prospector from Kumara who worked on the Kanieri Gold dredge. He arrived outside my factory one day, having worked the night shift, with a stone in the boot of his car. We both went out to look, he raised the boot lid, and as soon as I saw the stone I knew it was something special.

Pat's find was completely worn smooth, what’s known within the trade as "water washed". I knew from the time I first saw this stone that it would never be cut like so many of the beautiful water worn stones were in those early years. Stones like this are rare specimens indeed

Pat then proceeded to tell me how he had found it. He was on the "back shift" as they called it, working all night under lights with screaming noises from steel on steel, such a hell of a din.

These dredges could be heard for miles and they never stopped. It was overcast and drizzly, the clouds opening up to reveal the moon occasionally. It was at one of these moments that Pat caught a glimpse of the stone, with gleaming green, riding on the top of a bucket full of wash, in the stacker on the way to the tailings dump.

He rushed to shut down the bucket line, threw the switch, raced back to grab the stone and dumped it on the deck. He then hurried back to switch on the stacker again. The whole activity was completed within a minute! This wasn't the first time Pat had done this. It was a dicey act, for if the bucket line was stopped for long, sediments and gravels could cause the buckets to become almost cemented to the face.

This made it very difficult to restart and was not permitted unless great logs were likely to be caught or jammed. It was, however, an instant decision from a dedicated Greenstone man, thinking only of the stone and of nothing else. That’s how these treasures are retrieved, with luck, desperation and a burning desire to secure a gem.

thompson stone cropped

The dredge was digging at a depth of 18 metres, but it is difficult to know the exact level at which the stone was dislodged. It had moon shaped scales on its surface, a sure sign of a perfect stone. It also had a streak of the Totoweka, (the red colour rarely found in Greenstone). I have shown this stone to the late Dr Rodger Duff, and in his opinion, it was the finest Greenstone he had seen.

The bucket line often got jammed when old logs got caught up in the works. On another night the line became completely jammed with logs and huge boulders. The logs and stones were rolled off onto the deck and left there. The night shift had, had a time of it. Exhausted, they left the debris of logs and stones for the day shift to clear. Normally everything would be cast off over the side into the pond, anything to get the dredge working again.

Next morning, the hoses were played onto the deck as the washing down commenced. The hose was directed to a huge stone and a shout went up that it was a Greenstone. The Manager was informed but by the next day, the stone had disappeared. The word was that it had been sold to Jim Staples, who had friends in the right places.

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